Percy Barnevik is a Swedish business executive, best known for running some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Swedish construction giant Skanska, Swiss engineering firm ABB Ltd and UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca plc. In the U.S., he sat on the boards of DuPont and General Motors. In 2004, he founded Hand in Hand International with Dr. Kalpana Sankar, a move that would catalyze the creation of millions of small women-owned businesses.
Q: What led you to be passionate about poverty and creating jobs? How did this passion translate into your actual strategy of creating the NGO Hand in Hand International?
A: “It was in India, which I had visited some 50 times and which was a sort of “second home country” to me, when I realized that almost all the trouble in the developing world is extreme poverty. Children not attending school, poor health, carelessness about the environment—it all went back to poverty. One role model for me at the time was Mohammed Yunnus, the Bangladesh banker who pioneered micro credits and later became a Nobel Prize winner. The other one was Ratan Tata who managed a big foundation to support poor people and research. With Hand in Hand, I started training poor people into entrepreneurship. Our model, help to self-help, puts people’s destinies in their own hands.”
Q: In philanthropy why is it important to back personal passion with concrete strategies that will bring measurable results? What are the costs, if any, of giving based on passion alone?
A: “Passion is important in leading philanthropic organizations. However, as important is good organization and efficiency. I brought with me in to Hand in Hand my best experience from the business world: Target budgets, quantified goals, reward of good performance and weeding out poor performances. We have therefore had high productivity over the years.”
Q: What results have you seen from applying strategy to your philanthropy?
A: “I learned that mobilizing poor people into entrepreneurship was 25 times more effective than the traditional “giving”. To make a long story short: In 16 years we have contributed to starting 1,98 million enterprises with mainly women as managers. We are on our way towards 10 million jobs, which means 50 million family members lifted out of poverty. We’re now up to almost 1,000 new or expanded businesses every working day.”
Q: What do you think makes philanthropy effective?
A: “I have found that many NGOs may be driven by passion but productivity is low. It has also surprised me that donors often not have bigger demands. People from the business world care about the price of a car or a machine and look at productivity when they acquire a company. Donors should apply the same mentality when it comes to investing in an NGO.”
We hope you enjoyed reading Percy’s path to balancing passion and strategy. To learn more about Hand in Hand International, please visit their website at www.HandInHandInternational.org.
To learn how you can balance your philanthropic passions with strategy download the EngagedPhilanthropy™ Toolkit Balancing Passion and Strategy: A Family Office Guide for Meaningful Giving here.
Want more tools to help family offices plan and practice philanthropy? Making the Most of Family Dynamics: A Family Office Guide to Meaningful Giving, the 3rd EngagedPhilanthropy™ Toolkit will launch in May 2017.
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